Postal delays hurting Russian market

Deliveries from abroad are suffering long customs delays with the service unable to cope with demand. It's also making some big international retailers think twice about setting up in the Russian market.

Tonnes of goods, satisfied customers and lots of money. That's the theory. But in practice packages are piling up at Russia's postal service going nowhere, while tens of thousands of online shoppers seethe with frustration as they wait for delivery.

Parcels being carried by EMS Russian Post have been delayed for weeks. While DHL is faring slightly better, with its packages to Russia stalled from four to ten days. Postal operators blame the delays on parcels from abroad on customs red tape. The Customs Service does not deny the issue, but claims it is being overwhelmed by the dramatic development of on-line trade.

“The number of postal deliveries to Russia has increased three-fold compared with last year and our facilities and staffing capacity has not been sufficient to deal with the volume,” says Valery Seleznev, Deputy Head of the Customs Service.

Russian postal services agree, but it's their reputation that's suffering as angry customers are kept waiting.

“We face a lack of customs officers who are to deal with this problem. We insist the number of customs officers working in our main office should be doubled,” says Igor Mandrykin, Deputy General of the Russian Post.

A number of global on-line shops have already refused to sell goods to Russians due to delays in deliveries. The world's largest Internet auction company, eBay, which is launching a Russian website, will not be supporting it with offices in the capital and Russian clients will not receive the full range of services. But the government does appear to be listening. It has promised to bring in more customs staff within weeks and this may be of some comfort to Russians who still face a limited choice from local online retailers.